Chicago Blackhawks v Detroit Red Wings

NHL on NBC: Detroit, Chicago jockey for playoff positioning in regular season finale


It’s always a special contest when the Blackhawks and Red Wings face off — but on Saturday, the game has a little extra spice.

The Wings will host the ‘Hawks at Joe Louis Arena (1:00 p.m ET, NBC) knowing that playoff seeding is on the line. Detroit currently holds the fifth spot in the Western Conference, but Chicago can take it…assuming the ‘Hawks want to, that is.

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Detroit is fifth in the Western Conference and third in the Central Division with 101 points, while the Blackhawks are sixth in the West and fourth in the Central with 99. A regulation win for Chicago would tie them with the Wings in points and catapult them into the fifth slot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs based on tiebreakers — pitting Chicago against Nashville.

Any kind of Detroit win would consign Chicago with the sixth seed, while a Red Wings win plus a regulation loss for Nashville in Colorado would give the Wings home-ice advantage in a first-round series against the Preds. In short, there is still a lot left to play for besides bragging rights in one of the League’s oldest and fiercest rivalries.

The rub for the ‘Hawks? A regulation win against Detroit would be nice, but it puts them up against a tough Nashville team in Round 1 (the Preds went 4-1-1 against the ‘Hawks this year.)

A loss, though…a loss gives Chicago the No. 6 seed and the winner of the Pacific Division (either Phoenix, LA or San Jose.) The ‘Hawks went 1-2-1 against the Coyotes and Kings and 2-2 against the Sharks this season.

As for Saturday’s game — it could very well be decided by who’s not in the lineup. Chicago will be without the services of captain Jonathan Toews for the 21st straight game, along with key regulars Andrew Brunette and Dave Bolland (Steve Mondator is also still shelved.)

Detroit, meanwhile, is slowly getting back to full health. After a season loaded with injuries, they’ll only be without Darren Helm (knee) and Joey MacDonald (back) for the Chicago contest.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?

Goalie nods: Jones makes Sharks debut against ex-Kings mates

Martin Jones
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News and notes from around the crease…

Jones goes for San Jose

Martin Jones, acquired by the Sharks this summer, will make his first regular-season start for the club tonight against his old team — the Los Angeles Kings.

Jones, 25, spent the last two years in L.A. as Jonathan Quick‘s understudy. He was flipped to Boston at the NHL Entry Draft, then shipped to San Jose. Sharks GM Doug Wilson wasted little time locking Jones in — signing him to a three-year, $9 million extension — and Jones wasted little time locking up the No. 1 gig, putting together a stellar preseason.

For the Kings, Quick will get the start in goal.

Markstrom out for Vancouver

Jacob Markstrom wasn’t scheduled to start for the Canucks tonight — No. 1 Ryan Miller is getting the call — but the Swedish ‘tender won’t even dress when his club takes on the Flames in Calgary.

Markstrom suffered a lower-body injury at practice this week and is being held out of tonight’s action. In his place, the Canucks called up AHL netminder Richard Bachman, who’ll serve as Miller’s backup.

For the Flames, Karri Ramo is the opening-night starter.


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